Monday, March 4, 2013

개학일 - First Day of School

What's changed?

Everything felt very familiar this morning. The same school, same clear blue skies, same brisk walk to campus. More studio apartments have been built in the empty lots across the street, but that's hardly significant. When I arrived at school today -- back in the chilly halls, back in my cozy office -- it was as if I hadn't even been gone for two months.

근데 모든것은 늘 변해요.

The day began with an 입학식 (matriculation ceremony) for the incoming class of first-years. New students! Over eighty of them! They looked so young and nervous, dressed in the same gowns that they would wear two or three years later for graduation. As they filed into the auditorium, our principal handed each of them a rose. Then, everyone sang Korea's national anthem, and there were various speeches, and I totally zoned out because I still 한국말 잘 못해요.

I snapped back to attention when some of the second-years (they're still first-years in my mind, but I guess that will take some adjusting) got up on stage to perform their own rendition of every Korean high schooler's theme song, Dream High, from the eponymous K-drama Dream High about high schoolers who sing and have tons of drama.
Gosh, it was so endearing! At the very end, SW and SM yell, "New students, welcome!" and "We love you!" Cue warm fuzzy feelings.

Next, some scholarships were handed out, some ceremonial bowing was done between the 선배 and 후배 (upper- and underclassmen), and then all the teachers were introduced, old and new alike. I felt the warm fuzzies again when some of my schools' more beloved teachers were introduced, like the second-year homeroom teacher and some of the physics and math teachers. The way the students cheered and gave 큰 박수 (a big round of applause), you could really tell they respect and like them a lot. I hope that when I leave this school, I'll be cheered for because my students appreciate how I've taught them, and not just because I'm the American oddity. As it were, when I was introduced, I heard mostly, "Oh, 앤드료 선생님 [is back]!" Surprise, kiddos.

After the 입학식, I went back to my office and prepared for classes. This semester, my workload has increased: 4 first-year classes, 4 second-year classes, and 3 third-year classes (hooray! I love my third-years). This, plus one or two classes with the other teachers in the English department and an English class for the Korean teachers if there's enough interest, brings my teaching hours up to fourteen. That's considerably more than last semester, but I'm ready for it. (Mentally, ready, that is. I don't have any lesson plans prepared past this week.)

There was also a 33% increase in the number of English teachers at my school: from three to four. Now that my school is finally at full enrollment (three grade levels), it needed an English teacher for the new third-years. I met him today, but apart from exchanging niceties, I stayed mostly out of his way because he was having a rather troublesome first day of school due to Technical Difficulties; i.e., computers not working, phones missing, and schedules and rosters not being printed out. I've been there, man. This brand-new school is already breaking. I feel for ya. He also has been tasked with the illustrious job of teaching 수능-prep English to our third-years, who are already sick of studying all the time. 참 안됐다!

Speaking of studying, I found out that, today being the first official day of school notwithstanding, the first-years (and all of the students and other teachers, in fact), have been in school for about three weeks already. Not only that, but they've been taking performance and aptitude tests, the results of which have earned some of them scholarships. So... they had three weeks of classes to prepare them for the next two years of classes. Whew.

In response this, I've renewed my resolve to make my class fun, engaging, and as stress-free as possible. During some down time before and after class today, I started browsing the Internet and brainstorming new ideas for the semester: art projects, games, and everything cool that falls within the intersection of English and science. New semester, new year... let's do this! 시작!

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